This Thursday, island residents will be among the first of nearly 46 million Americans to prepare and eat turkey for Thanksgiving.
If you are preparing a turkey and have some questions or anxiety about the task, you’re not alone, and maybe you’d be surprised at the people who learned a lesson or two about cooking turkeys.
‘I was traumatized’
“I was traumatized,” was the recollection of chef Jhorge Gonzales on one of his early experiences cooking a turkey. He was just out of high school and working in one of the big kitchens in a Tumon hotel when the turkey he was cooking for diners came out underdone.
“I thought I was following instructions and I didn’t want to be the cause of some crazy disease,” said Gonzales, who is now the sous chef at Eataliano restaurant at the LeoPalace Resort.
The problem was fixed, but Gonzales observed, “I definitely learned a lesson, and turkey is tricky for beginners.”
Gonzales offers these tips for cooking a turkey:
• Brine the turkey a couple of days prior to cooking.
• Cover the bird with foil for most of the roasting time, and uncover the pan for browning.
• Carefully monitor the internal temperature of the roasting turkey, and check several spots on the bird for accurate temperature confirmation.
‘I was devastated, and scared’
Karen Quitugua said she had a scare when she started carving the turkey she prepared for the family meal in 2016, and was surprised to find a frozen bag of giblets in the center of a still frozen turkey.
“I was devastated, and scared,” she recalls, “I was able to cut the turkey in half and complete the cooking, but now I know to always thaw the bird properly, and to check the cavity for the giblets!”
Now Quitugua is a culinary professional and a Guam Community College ProStart instructor, and recommends a dry brining method for turkey preparation, and she roasts the bird with a couple of sprigs of rosemary in the cavity for aroma. Don’t take anything for granted, try to calibrate your thermometer for the most accurate readings possible.
Chef Karen suggests:
• Dry brining method for preparation, and a couple of sprigs of rosemary during roasting.
• Select three or four spots when roasting the bird for the temperature check, such as the breast and thigh areas, toward the thicker, center part of the turkey.
• Rotate the covered pan for an even roast before uncovering for browning, and baste the turkey while cooking.
Both chef Jhorge and chef Karen stress that the internal temperature of the turkey must be 165 degrees Fahrenheit for proper doneness, and don't forget, the turkey will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven.